Among all of the different types of National Historic Sites, forts have quickly become some of our favorites. And of all the different forts we’ve been to so far, Fort Scott National Historic Site in Kansas ranks among the top. What we thought was going to be more of a ‘get the stamp and get back in the car’ experience, ended up being a perfect afternoon of history and Kansas sunshine. As our first stop on our Midwest National Parks Road Trip and one of the few national park units in the state, here’s why we think it’s worth a visit:
About Fort Scott National Historic Site
Location: Fort Scott, Kansas
Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/fosc/index.htm
Fort Scott National Historic Site preserves 20 buildings and large historical parade grounds of Fort Scott. Built at the edge of what was once considered the ‘west’, the exhibits detail events in the area from 1842-1873. Like many NPS fort sites, visitors can wander through fort buildings and get a sense of what frontier life was like for soldiers and officers.
What to see at Fort Scott NHS
When you arrive at Fort Scott National Historic Site, be sure to add these stops to your list:
The Visitor’s Center
The visitor center at Fort Scott will be the first building you see as you approach the park sign and entrance. Stop here to pick up your park passport stamps, talk with a ranger about any upcoming programs, and pick up a unigrid. Be sure to check out the upstairs exhibits as well.
Take a ranger-led tour.
At all national park fort sites, we highly recommend taking the guided ranger-led tour of the grounds and buildings. C’mon, who doesn’t love spending an afternoon with a park ranger?
Tours of the fort leave the visitor’s center multiple times per day. During the summer travel months, you may find rangers stationed in some of the other buildings to answer questions as well.
Walk all the way around and in each of the buildings.
If you plan a self-guided tour, allow about 45-50 minutes to wander in and around each of the buildings. The officer’s quarters, guardhouse, and quartermaster storehouse were among our favorites. One of the things we loved most about Fort Scott NHS was the beautiful and unique architecture of the remaining fort buildings. If you enjoy photography, you’ll want to make sure to allow plenty of time to wander here. Plenty of blue Kansas skies to shoot the day we were there.
Hike the tallgrass prairie trail.
Five acres of Fort Scott National Historic Site has been dedicated as restored tallgrass prairie. Much of the surrounding area would have been tallgrass prairie when the fort was originally built. There’s a short loop trail that goes through a portion of the restored prairie area.
More #Parkchasing Tips
- Spend some time in the Fort Scott downtown area. The downtown area near the National Historic Site is full of unique shops and restaurants to add to the experience of your visit. If you have time, plan to spend some time wandering the area, grab a bite to eat, and walk along the historic main street.
- If you have a chance to visit for a living history program. Throughout the year, Fort Scott National Historic Site offers living history demonstrations and reenactments of what fort life was like over one hundred years ago. These days can really bring the park to life, especially for Junior Rangers! (The park has three different junior ranger program booklets that can be downloaded before your visit or picked up at the visitors center when you arrive.